The climate change policy debate is heating up as nicely as the Earth’s surface temperatures.
The U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a consortium of big businesses and environmental groups, on Thursday unveiled its recommendations on what Congress and the new White House should include in a climate change bill. The proposal, which took two years to conceive, outlines what a carbon emissions cap-and-trade system should look like, including targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions over time.
Plenty of special interest groups have offered their takes on what the legislation should include, including one presented by an industry group for electric utilities yesterday. But the proposal by the USCAP seems to have drawn a lot more attention (criticism) from politicians and environmental groups, noted the WSJ's Environmental Capital blog.
Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy in Charlotte, N.C., helped to present the USCAP’s proposal before the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing.
The Republicans on the committee were miffed that they were given little time to review the USCAP proposal before the hearing, the first held by the new committee chairman, Henry Waxman of California. The Republicans also don’t like the cap-and-trade program to begin with.
A cap-and-trade program would (ideally) set strict emission limits and requires any polluters that can’t meet the emission requirements to buy credits from those that pollute much less than allowed. The European Union has run a cap-and-trade program since 2005.
The goal of a cap-and-trade is to nudge companies into cutting emissions, or else they will have to pay. They might have to pay to get those credits in the first place, something that Barack Obama has advocated during the election campaign (in Europe, companies get their first allowances mostly for free, although that might change). Some critics say a cap-and-trade system would be too costly for businesses, especially during an economic downturn.
Obama wants to use the cap-and-trade program to raise billions of dollars over time to pay for a variety of initiatives, including greentech research and business developments.
The USCAP wants the government to give away a big portion of the emission allowances for free, and that doesn’t sound right for some lawmakers and environmental groups. Its schedule for reducing emissions over time also drew ire from groups such as the Union for Concerned Scientists, which wants to see tougher targets.
Markus Beck, the chief scientist at Solyndra, has defected to thin-film solar giant First Solar, according to sources.
The loss of Beck is a major loss for Solyndra, according to solar execs who heard about the switch. As chief scientist, Beck oversaw projects for improving the efficiency and performance of the company’s unusual, cylindrical copper, indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells. His name is on various Solyndra patents.
“Beck was truly the key technical solar guy over there,??? wrote one solar exec.
Both Solyndra and First Solar have not returned calls for comment. Beck, however, has arleady started at First Solar, say sources.
Is the Tesla Motors deal just an interim solution for Daimler until the Germany car maker can start getting lithium-ion battery packs from its joint venture with Evonik?
That was what it sounded like in a post on Green Car Congress yesterday where Daimler’s spokesman Matthias Brock said this:
"he agreement with Tesla "helps us to bridge the time until the industrialization of lithium-ion batteries within our joint venture with Evonik will be ready," Brock told Green Car Congress.
Brock’s comment cast a different light to the Tesla announcement by CEO Elon Musk, who described the deal more as the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Musk said his San Carlos, Calif.-based company will build battery packs and chargers for about 1,000 Daimler’s all-electric Smart cars, and the deal could expand if all goes well.
I asked Brock about his comment, and he emailed me back today to say, “We are promoting the industrialization of li-ion batteries in our joint venture with Evonik in parallel. This doesn’t exclude further agreements with Tesla Motors.???
It makes sense for Daimler to rely more heavily if not exclusively on the battery packs that will be produced by the joint venture. The company announced the joint venture last December, and it holds a 90 percent share of the joint venture. In fact, Daimler said back then that it would like to eventually sell battery cells and systems to other companies as well.
Heck, Daimler could be selling battery cells to Tesla. Musk told Reuters this week that he would consider buying from Evonik if Evonik makes better products.
Tesla is currently selling its $109,000 Roadsters, and plans to begin shipping its second electric car mode, the Model S, in 2011. The company recently had trouble raising the necessary money to build Model S, so finding new ways to generate revenues is critical for the company's survival. Tesla's spokeswoman Rachel Konrad said the company is actively looking to sell its powertrain technology.